Developer: Big Huge Games / Publisher: 38 Studios / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: 800 MS Points / ESRB: Mature
Once again the world of Amalur expands, adding a new area for exploration, loot acquisition, and fate-defying. Where the previous DLC had a pirate theme and provided a slick new homestead on an island that required a boat ride from the mainland, this new experience elevates to the skies and delivers a grander scale of allies, enemies, and story gravitas.
The strong themes of fate that have permeated the core game reemerge after just a throwaway reference in the earlier DLC. Now, you evolve your character’s story closer to the gods of Amalur. Nicknamed (or honored as) “Beckoned,” your role of as world savior now starts to earn some credibility. While side missions continue to run the usual trite reasons for monster slaughter such as locating lost spouses or slaying set numbers of critters, the main quest really evokes some gravitas. The proximity to the gods is set up by the new race of the Kollossae, a stony giant group with various political affiliations, and a city—Idylla—that floats above the Teeth of Naros area.
Aside from forcing you to crane your neck upwards in every conversation and cut scene, they present a few interesting challenges that appear to set up branching opportunities for the story (though I’m pretty convinced your decisions all lead to the same boss battles. Still, it’s refreshing, after so many hours, to feel like the people of Amalur truly recognize your contribution, and potential going forward.
It’s no surprise that the core gameplay remains consistent with the core game and first expansion. A couple of new monsters (the flightless Pteryx birds among them) don’t add much in the way of new challenge beyond their own take on the head-butt. Similarly, the rebel Kollossae follow the mantra of the bigger they are the stonier they fall. Ah, but they continue to drop phat loot that, earn you XP, and allow more points to flow into those crammed ability trees.
To prove that this engine has some flexibility for new additions, some of the traps and puzzles are at least interesting, if not terribly tricky (solving a rat problem by pulling levers in some super-limited tower defense style to stop them marauding from the sewers, for example). Despite additional fate cards there are no changes to the skill progression, the inventory system (that really needs an overhaul), and no new homes to own. This last one is a shame since the keep at Gallows End is awesome, but requires fast-traveling to Rathir, and jumping on the boat with Captain Brannigan (who’s evidently forgotten her devoted love for you since you finished off the first DLC content). It’s too many hops, so it makes sense to fast travel to Adessa to use your house there to stash that unwanted-but-not-quite-clear-its-useless gear.
Visuals and Sound
It did appear that some of the texture work in the new sewer area and Teeth of Naros location itself had received a beefing up of sorts. While the structure of both areas is incredibly simple (a square sewer system, a circular region) several areas, particularly the special instances, display an upgraded visual style…nothing too spectacular, but hints at what may be to come.
The voice-over work continues to be an issue in matching actual voices to the look of the fantasy creatures. Maybe it’s more apparent now since after over 100 hours now vested in this story, I’m genuinely listening to plot lines (those on the main quest, that is… whoever just needs resources farming are met with a quick click-through).
Through the roughly eight hours added to the campaign in the Teeth of Naros, the scale of storyline emerged in a positive way, whether you’re following your fate or crafting your own destiny. It definitely helps to collect all the possible side quests before descending into the sewers, or you’ll find areas you know mean something, but can’t activate until that quest is in your log. I have to say, it’s also pretty easy. I bust out a few health potions against the Silverback Trolls on occasion, but never really felt threatened. That helped breeze through both the very linear main quest and the multiple side options. And that commitment remains plain weird: what is it about this game that is compelling me to a completest level never-before-seen? It’s fun, simple, playable, looks okay, and you feel like a bad-ass… that’ll do for another eight hours.